Day 11 of the Suhakam Inquiry: The big Question Mark in the Raymond Koh case

23rd Nov 2017

Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police, SAC Fadzil was the sole witness today. He was questioned by Datuk Jerald Gomez who has volunteered his time to assist the Suhakam Inquiry on behalf of Pastor Raymond Koh’s family; his fellow volunteers are Professor Gurdial Singh and Steve Thiru.

Today I realized just how patient trial lawyers have to be. I also realized the importance of transcripts in a hearing – a transcript is an official record of who said what during a hearing. Often today Jerald spent many minutes going through the “Notes of Proceedings” (NP) to remind SAC Fadzil and the panel of what had been said by whom previously and entered into evidence.

Today Jerald asked many closed-ended questions – questions to which the answer is “yes” or “no,” to wrap up the evidence and confirm conclusions indicated during previous sittings of the Inquiry.

SAC Fadzil continued to attempt to answer questions without referring to any written documents, because any documents he brings to the hearing may be taken by the hearing as evidence and be subjected to scrutiny. The police continue to profess that the abduction of Raymond Koh more than eight months ago is on-going investigation and therefore the details must remain confidential.

The police have refused to provide the Inquiry with any evidence. As far as I can tell, they have submitted no Inquiry Documents. They have left it to the families to put up a case; this has resulted in a case which is built around videos, articles and reports filed by reporters and witnesses.

Today we watched the viral video compiled from surveillance videos collected by Pastor Raymond Koh’s children, statements made by members of his family, videos of media statements by IGP Khalid, media releases made by the Kedah police and news reports by local reporters. The team of volunteers assisting the pastor’s family, with the lawyers as frontmen, have put up a great case.

SAC Fadzil is a polished witness. From time to time he throws in comments which are designed to give the sense that he cares nothing about the rate at which his career progresses, that he lacks time to engage in “normal” past times, and so on. I do not doubt what he says, but I think those proofs of his devotion to his work may in fact be proofs of his devotion to a harmful way of working.

Today, Jerald got Fadzil to admit that his task force “may not have approached the highway authority for video recordings relevant to the disappearances of Amri, Joshua, Ruth and Raymond.”

This is the case of a pastor whose abduction has led thousands of Christians in both West and East Malaysia to publicly express their desire for a quick and thorough investigation. Yet, the most senior officer working the case doesn’t bother to prepare before appearing at the Inquiry. His answers were mostly “can’t remember,” “don’t know” and “can’t say.”

In the wake of commendations of the police over their use of video recordings to find the honourable public servant Kevin Morais, this senior police officer couldn’t say how many video cameras the police had sought to harness in their quest for the pastor and his abductors.

Also, it was only after an immense amount of prompting by Jerald, that the SAC agreed the abductors conducted the operations in a way very similar to that used by trained police officers and members of other state agencies.

He also agreed that police officers sometimes don’t wear insignia on their clothing when they conduct operations. He had to be shown a video of the 2010 abduction of the Sultan of Kelantan a couple of times before he would admit to this. Finally he agreed that several of the policemen who conducted the Kelantan abduction were dressed in black outfits with no police markings.

As I watched the video of the abduction in Kota Baru, I was impressed by two contents of the sound track. The first was that the abduction was conducted while the azan, the call to prayer, was being issued from a nearby mosque. The second was that many of the policemen who conducted the abduction were saying “go, go, go, go, go.”

Jerald pointed out a very important feature of the Kelantan abduction: the police team whose mission was to “protect” the Sultan was ambushed by another police team whose mission was to “abduct” the Sultan. Despite this observation which the SAC didn’t deny, the SAC said it is impossible that the abduction of the pastor may have been conducted by a unit of police who did not inform the SAC and others who are charged with conducting the investigation. His response to this was very firm; he did not pepper it with “don’t know” or “not sure” as he did in his other answers. Interesting!

Also, based on the synchronisation so clearly evident in the viral video, the SAC agreed trained men abducted the pastor. It is worth observing that the first Investigation Officer, the very junior Inspector Ali, had come to this same conclusion after interviewing the eyewitness who reported the crime, without the benefit of a video of the operation.

Four other things were clearly concluded today.

The first is that the IGP at the time, Khalid Abu Bakar, made patently false statements when he linked the kidnapping of the pastor with two other cases which occurred in the North. From the evidence which Jerald so painstakingly adduced, it became clear that those conducting the investigating into the pastor’s abduction had concluded there was no connection between the abduction and the suspects from the North before the IGP’s statements to the media.

As I listened to the evidence being adduced, I recalled what Justice V T Singham said about Khalid in his decision on the case of death in custody of 22 year old Kugan in January 2009. Singham found that Khalid had made false statements about the case to the media and that Khalid had tried to cover-up what really happened. He wrote, in paragraph 22 (page 64) of his judgement:

… the evidence of [Khalid] when considered together with the evidence of [other officers] tantamounts to suppression of evidence … This court wishes to state that no person, be it in any position, status or rank, when testifying in court should take this court for granted and attempt to suppress the truth with the view to escape liability.

The second is that despite his previous testimony, the SAC now agrees that the wife of suspect Fauzi Tajuddin who was shot to death in Kedah was never brought to Selangor for questioning. How is it possible that the head of the task force in a high priority case can’t remember whether his team questioned the sole woman suspect in the case? Does he even realize how bad this makes him look?

The third was aptly described by Chairman Mah as “the one big question mark in the RK case.” The head of the task force is clueless about how the four pieces of evidence allegedly found in a search of the home of shot-to-death Fauzi Tajuddin are connected to the abduction of the pastor. These items are a photo of the pastor, a photo of his residence, a photo of his car and a number plate bearing the registration number of his car.

The SAC said he has seen the items, but doesn’t remember whether the number plate is from the front or the rear of the car. He also said he doesn’t recall whether it was from the pastor’s car, as opposed to a duplicate. Chairman Mah asked him to check and revert with an answer.

The fourth is that SAC Fadzil admitted he received instructions from Datuk Huzir in Bukit Aman Police Headquarters on how to proceed with the investigation. The Inquiry also received documentary evidence which shows that the Investigation Officer handling Amri Che Mat’s abduction has handed the case over to Bukit Aman.

The police observers/lawyers declined to ask any questions today. To-date, the police have provided the Inquiry with no documents. They seem set upon “enduring” the Inquiry rather than using it as an opportunity to show themselves in a good light. Clearly good folks in the police must be as disappointed as all good citizens who care about the rule of law, especially Christian pastors and the hundreds of thousands of Christians they care for.

I hope Christian clergy will attend the next sitting of the Inquiry on Monday 4 December. Their presence will demonstrate the extent of Christian dismay over the way the abduction of pastor Raymond Koh has been handled.


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